“The sunlight sure is refreshing this morning! It’s like it’s telling us that the future will be bright! Isn’t that right, Pochi?!”
“‘Trust that I’ll do something,’ he said! AHAHAHAHAHA!!”
“C’mon, we ought to be ahead of the game and go hunt some monsters! That’s what it means to be a free adventurer! Isn’t that right, Betty?!”
“‘You can’t act uncool,’ he said! HAHAHAHA! Radical!”
“…On second thought, I’mma go home!”
“Ah – sorry, sorry! I might’ve had a bit too much fun there. C’mon, cheer up!”
“That’s right, sir! ‘I don’t wanna see my Master like that’! Pfft-“
Right, now I remember Melchi telling me of recent sightings of the Heavenly Beast Shi’shichou in the northwest.
Let’s go fight it and die. Maybe it’ll eat me. Along with all my shame and humiliation.
“Boy, I haven’t laughed that hard in a while! But that did change my opinion of you a bit, you know?”
“…What do you mean?”
“I never thought you could man up and get real emotional like that, and stuff. Careful not to make Lina feel jealous, yeah?”
“And why’d you even bring her up now?!”
“You realize that having multiple relationships going on at once is no easy task, yes, Master~~?”
“Yeah, your wallet’s gotta be secure!”
“And that also includes the funds for taking care of me, of course!”
Hey, YOU ought to take care of me, too. Or did you forget the terms of our contract? The Familiar Contract had already been voided, sure, but that didn’t necessarily rid us of all our binding terms. I mean, I MUST HAVE left in the absolute essential clauses of the contract, at least… Hmm.
Now that I thought about it, Pochi has been severely lacking in discipline lately… Was it because of the Familiar Contract’s voiding, or something else?
Perhaps it was due to the gradual reduction of the contract’s compulsory force. Hmm, maybe I should keep observing the effects from here on out.
I pondered on, and by the time Pochi and Betty piped down, we reached our destination.
Back at the Regalia Adventurers’ Guild, we had accepted just one monster hunting quest, with our objective being a group of Scyllas in an abandoned town to the Royal Capital’s west.
The Scylla was a monster archetype with a humanoid female form for its upper half, a long fish-serpent-like form for its lower half, and several dog heads protruding from its abdomen.
To quote Bruce, it was the ‘pretty lady among monsters’. Yeah, right…
It was classified as Rank A, but as they would appear in a group, the job had been bumped up to Rank S.
That’s right – we finally were official S-ranked adventurers now. I’d never thought the paperwork would be processed and delivered in just two and a half days.
And so, with me deciding together with Betty to take this opportunity to challenge a high-difficulty quest, we have come here for our mark.
…The world sure is an unforgiving place.
I had been reminded of that just a few hours ago.
The rewards for B-ranked monster hunts we usually took were in the 5,000 to 8,000 Gold range, with the upper bound being 10,000 Gold.
A-ranked quests, on the other hand, paid anything between 10,000 to 20,000 Gold. Jobs that paid 30,000 Gold would turn up quite rarely, but their relative difficulty usually made them not worth the reward.
And now, this Rank S job…
I don’t know if this is because it’s hosted in the Royal Capital, but by fulfilling the objective of slaying ten of these Scyllas, one would receive the handsome reward of 65,000 Gold.
It is quite a dangerous undertaking, of course, but with me, Betty, and Pochi working together, I’d say it’ll be a piece of cake.
And even if we split the reward evenly, each of us would still end with 20,000 Gold.
If we could get work like this on a consistent basis, we would have a much easier time running the Pochisley Agency, and that in turn would open up opportunities for everyone to go out and better paying work elsewhere.
The issue lies in the fact that there just aren’t that many S-ranked quests to go around, and if any of us were to take on one by ourselves, we would have to tread most carefully.
Apparently, this kind of work would turn up a few times a month in Regalia.
If we could take them all, then the Silver trio and I could take turns fulfilling them, which should generate income efficiently enough.
Hehehehehe… It’s all about the money, money, money! That’s what makes the world dance!
“…Whew. That makes ten of them, so our job’s complete now, but looks like there are still a few left? How about it? Want to go a bit further in?”
“Hmm, let’s see… I say we shouldn’t, since we’re not all that familiar with the land around here. Let’s just go back.”
“Right, I remember there being another S-ranked job, so let’s see if we can take that.”
Suddenly, Pochi’s nose twitched. Her ears stood straight up, too.
“…Hearing something, Pochi?”
“No – no sound, but I smell something… suspicious.”
Before Betty and I could express our doubts, Pochi dashed toward where she had been looking at, deeper into the abandoned town.
Betty and I stood dumbfounded, then promptly gave chase a few beats after – chasing the tail of the gourmand dog.
Oh? Is it just me, or is her tail is wagging?
Is that her way of signaling that there’s no danger?
We ran on for a minute more before reaching the town’s west exit. Pochi stopped at a certain collapsed statue in the area.
Yup, her tail is definitely wagging. I can tell that there’s something here… but what is it?
“So… something wrong with that statue?”
The statue had long lost its original form, with me only barely being able to tell that it had originally been in a humanoid shape.
…Strange, isn’t it? I’m feeling a historic dissonance between this statue’s deterioration and the abandoned town.
No matter how I identified it, this was more than a thousand years’ worth of deterioration. Perhaps it had been damaged on multiple occasions over the long years rather than being left alone.
But if so, how did the place even end up abandoned?
The Royal Capital of Regalia was so close by, and this town’s location could very well make it a western key location, just as Radeata was one in the southeast.
Or had it fallen precisely because it was located at an important point?
“Hmm, I can’t quite put my finger on it. I might have smelled this from somewhere else before, but I can’t remember…”
“A smell you think you recognize? That’s why you came all the way here…?”
Pochi approached the bronze statue and stiffed it a few more times, and then shook her head.
The town itself seemed to have been abandoned for around a hundred years, so its time must precede the War Demon Calendar.
“Betty, you know anything about this town?”
“The town’s called ‘Kugg’. Apparently, it faced a huge wave of monster attacks a long time ago. Used to be as prosperous as Radeata, too. Long story short, the people gave up on rebuilding it around the transition to the War Demon Calendar.”
We watched over Pochi for a while, but she wasn’t able to come up with anything. In the end, we had to drag her along, in spite of her frustrated protests, into a Teleportation Spell Circle, which transported us back to the Spell Circle we had hidden in the woods near the Royal Capital.
I had already altered the formula’s access code, so there technically wasn’t a need to hide it, but being seen while going in and out of it would cause us problems nonetheless.
And so we headed to the Adventurers’ Guild once again, this time accepting the request to slay a monster called ‘Wilhelm’.
The Wilhelm was an old, wingless monster of the Dragon archetype. Its kin was rarely seen due to them usually living under the clay-like earth of particularly damp or swampy regions.
However, they had been presumably provoked by the Shi’shichou at the northwestern Regalia Ravine lately, causing them to make more frequent appearances to people passing by, which usually resulted in the people being attacked and getting their property damaged or destroyed.
Word has it that just one of them possessed enough power to be considered an S-ranked difficulty hunt target.
That was why we had opted for the Scylla hunt the first time around – we wanted a wider margin of safety for our job.
This Wilhelm hunt would get us a whopping 80,000 Gold if successful. Combined with what he had already received today, we could keep the Pochisley Agency running for a whole another month.
Hehehehehe… It’s all about the money, money, money! That’s what makes the world dance!
But then, when we exited the Adventurers’ Guild, we were met with an individual I hadn’t quite expected to see. Betty, not recognizing him, asked,
“Ooh, got yourself a lady already? Really feeling that Rank S charisma boost, huh, Asley?”
“Oh, my! He just called me a lady! Did you hear that, Master?!”
He was referring to Betty, damn it.
I know it’s not that rare for someone like him to show up at the Adventurers’ Guild, but… what is he even here for?
“Betty, this is Sir Barun, one of the Six Braves. Sir Barun, this is Betty, a friend of mine who has been promoted to Rank S the same day as I was. And I’d prefer that you don’t… talk in ways that can cause misunderstandings.”
“Heh, you’re THE Betty? The one who landed a good cut on Sir Gaston? You’re amazing! Hahahaha!”
That compliment was so monotonous that I could hardly consider it a compliment at all. And Betty seemed to have realized that, too.
“Heh, so you’re Barun of the Six Braves? The one who lost to some Familiar called Pochi despite having a Familiar back him up himself? Yeah, nice meeting you! Hahahaha!”
Oh? Did I just hear the air crackle just now?
“…I was just… out of shape! Yeah…!”
Yup, he’d definitely angry. Intensely so. What now, Betty?
Contrary to my expectations, Betty wiped the expression of mockery off her face, instantly turning the conversation into a serious direction. Huh, what’s going on?
“…You’re a warrior, so you ought to keep your body in perfect fit at all times. If you die like that, there won’t be anything left but dishonor to your name.”
Barun was… actually entranced by Betty’s soulful advice. Huh, I guess that works, too.
Although he had been in it to win, making up excuses for his loss wouldn’t do him any good. Since Betty was the older person here, I suppose that wisdom comes with experience.
While Barun shivered, Betty proceeded to pat him on his shoulders.
Under different circumstances, the way she hit him like that could have triggered a chain of explosions in the social hierarchy, couldn’t it?
At any rate, Betty’s handling of the situation here really surprised me.
With her opinion on Barun changed, she proceeded to speak to him, her words devoid of mischief and spite,
“Anyway, what’re you here for? Have some free time or something?”
“Well, yeah. I’ve suddenly been put off duty today, so…”
Barun said, trying his best to suppress the malice in his voice.
…Hey, wait a second, don’t tell me…
“All right! How about you come with us?! We’ll be out hunting a Wilhelm, and then go see if we can find the Shi’shichou!”
First time I’ve heard of us ever planning to do that second thing, but sure, I’ll roll along with it.